My two top books are both monuments of, and to, scholarship. The much-needed new edition of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy pays respects to a work that is close to my heart in its obsessive, searching, elephantine reach. Many years ago the writer John Crowley recommended two books to me: The Man Without Qualities and The Anatomy of Melancholy. He clearly saw me well. Mary Ann Lund’s book offers a good introduction to Burton if the monster tome itself seems unapproachable.

Susan Bernofsky’s biography of Robert Walser is simply the best literary biography I’ve read in some time, meticulously researched and beautifully written, the result of Bernofsky’s 30 years of deep engagement with Walser. The writing itself is exceptional, making it also the most literary literary biography I have read in many a year.

Otherwise, it was a good year for books, better than 2020 overall, with the exception of comics, where remarkable entries seemed quite thin (at least among established publishers). This possibly owes to the ongoing genteelification of the medium and the concomitant insecurities. But Brecht Evens’s long awaited new work is his greatest yet, beautiful and dense, with stunning use of color.

Keep reading, and happy new year, as happy a one as is feasible.

BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The Anatomy of Melancholy
Burton, Robert (Author)
Penguin Classics


Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser
Bernofsky, Susan (Author)
Yale University Press

LITERATURE

Be as Children (Dedalus Europe Book 0)
Sharov, Vladimir (Author), Ready, Oliver (Translator)
Dedalus


The Wife Who Wasn't: A Novel
Ifland, Alta (Author)
New Europe Books


The Symphonies (Russian Library)
Bely, Andrei (Author), Stone, Jonathan (Translator)
Columbia University Press


Fetch Muse: Poems
Starks, Rebecca (Author)
Able Muse Press


Kapo (New York Review Books Classics)
Tisma, Aleksander (Author), Williams, Richard (Translator), Rieff, David (Afterword)
NYRB Classics


The Trees: A Novel
Everett, Percival (Author)
Graywolf Press


Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature, 65)
al-Ḥarīrī (Author), Cooperson, Michael (Translator), Kilito, Abdelfattah (Foreword)
NYU Press


At Night All Blood Is Black
Diop, David (Author)
Picador Paper


Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Tadeusz Borowski (Author), Madeline G. Levine (Translator)
Yale University Press


Terminal Boredom: Stories
Suzuki, Izumi (Author), Barton, Polly (Translator), Bett, Sam (Translator), Boyd, David (Translator), Joseph, Daniel (Translator)
Verso Fiction


Chasing Homer
Krasznahorkai, László (Author), Miklós, Szilveszter (Performer), Batki, John (Translator), Neumann, Max (Artist)
New Directions


The Notes: or On Non-premature Reconciliation (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Hohl, Ludwig (Author), Cohen, Joshua (Foreword), Lewis, Tess (Translator)
Yale University Press


Brief Lives of Idiots
Cavazzoni, Ermanno (Author), Richards, Jamie (Introduction)
Wakefield Press


Kalevala: The Epic of the Finnish People
Lönnrot, Elias (Editor), Korpela, Jukka (Introduction), Friberg, Eino (Translator)
Penguin



The Book of All Skies
Egan, Greg (Author)
Greg Egan


We All Hear Stories in the Dark [Trade Paperback 3 Volume Set]
Robert Shearman (Author), Michael Marshall Smith (Author), Lisa Tuttle (Author), Angela Slatter (Author), Steven Moffat (Author), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator)
PS Publishing


The Stone Face
Smith, William Gardner (Author), Shatz, Adam (Introduction)
NYRB Classics


Storm
Stewart, George R. (Author), Rich, Nathaniel (Introduction)
NYRB Classics


Good Behaviour (New York Review Books Classics)
Keane, Molly (Author), Gentry, Amy (Introduction)
NYRB Classics


Rakes of the Old Court: A Novel (Northwestern World Classics)
Caragiale, Mateiu I. (Author), Cotter, Sean (Translator)
Northwestern University Press


McGrotty and Ludmilla (Canons)
Gray, Alasdair (Author)
Canongate Canons


PARADISE: Dante's Divine Trilogy Part Three. Englished in Prosaic Verse by Alasdair Gray
Gray, Alasdair (Author), Alighieri, Dante (Author)
Canongate Books


The Life Written by Himself (Russian Library)
Petrov, Archpriest Avvakum (Author), Gluck, Michael (Editor), Brostrom, Kenneth (Translator)
Columbia University Press


Anthology of Tang and Song Tales: The Tang Song Chuanqi Ji of Lu Xun
Victor Mair (Author), Victor Mair (Editor), Zhenjun Zhang (Editor)
World Scientific Publishing Company


The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories
Jull Costa, Margaret (Editor), Jull Costa, Margaret (Translator), Bunstead, Thomas (Translator), Bush, Peter (Translator), Phillips-Miles, Kathryn (Translator), Deefholt, Simon (Translator), Maude, Kit (Translator)
Penguin


The Spirit of Controversy: and Other Essays (Oxford World's Classics)
Hazlitt, William (Author), Mee, Jon (Editor), Grande, James (Editor)
Oxford University Press


Samuel Johnson: Selected Works
Johnson, Samuel (Author), DeMaria, Robert (Editor), Fix, Stephen (Editor), Weinbrot, Howard D (Editor)
Yale University Press

HUMANITIES

Philosophy and Religion in Plato's Dialogues
Nightingale, Andrea (Author)
Cambridge University Press


Lucian, True History: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary
Clay, Diskin (Author), Brusuelas, James H. (Editor)
OUP Oxford


Expanding Horizons in the History of Science: The Comparative Approach
Lloyd, G. E. R. (Author)
Cambridge University Press


Inwardness: An Outsider's Guide (No Limits)
Ganeri, Jonardon (Author)
Columbia University Press



St. Matthew Passion (signale|TRANSFER: German Thought in Translation)
Blumenberg, Hans (Author), Müller-Sievers, Helmut (Translator), Fleming, Paul (Translator)
Cornell University Press and Cornell University Library


Cassirer (The Routledge Philosophers)
Matherne, Samantha (Author)
Routledge


Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music
Sulzer, David (Author)
Columbia University Press



The Philosophical Stage: Drama and Dialectic in Classical Athens
Billings, Joshua (Author)
Princeton University Press



Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present
Nirenberg, David (Author), Nirenberg, Ricardo L. (Author)
University of Chicago Press




Plato's Sun-Like Good: Dialectic in the Republic
Broadie, Sarah (Author)
Cambridge University Press


A User's Guide to Melancholy
Lund, Mary Ann (Author)
Cambridge University Press

SCIENCE AND TECH




Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality
Wilczek, Frank (Author)
Penguin Books



The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness
Solms, Mark (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company



SOCIAL SCIENCE

Outrageous Fortune: Gloomy Reflections on Luck and Life
Miller, William Ian (Author)
Oxford University Press



Information: A Historical Companion
Blair, Ann (Editor), Duguid, Paul (Editor), Goeing, Anja-Silvia (Editor), Grafton, Anthony (Editor)
Princeton University Press


Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing
Thompson, John B. (Author)
Polity


The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution Is Transforming Currencies and Finance
Prasad, Eswar S. (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press



The Banks Did It: An Anatomy of the Financial Crisis
Fligstein, Neil (Author)
Harvard University Press

HISTORY AND POLITICS


My Seven Lives: Jana Juráňová in Conversation with Agneša Kalinová
Juráňová, Jana (Author), Kalinová, Agneša (Author)
Purdue University Press


Law and the Party in China: Ideology and Organisation
Creemers, Rogier J. E. H. (Editor), Trevaskes, Susan (Editor)
Cambridge University Press


The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Yang, Jisheng (Author), Mosher, Stacy (Translator), Jian, Guo (Translator)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Plokhy, Serhii (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company


Cicero: Political Philosophy (Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought)
Schofield, Malcolm (Author)
Oxford University Press


India and the World: A History of Connections, c. 1750–2000
Markovits, Claude (Author)
Cambridge University Press


China's Leaders: From Mao to Now
Shambaugh, David (Author)
Polity


Hobbes's Political Philosophy: Interpretation and Interpretations
Martinich, A.P. (Author)
Oxford University Press

COMICS

The City of Belgium
Evens, Brecht (Author)
Drawn and Quarterly


Donjon Monsters T13: Réveille-toi et meurs (Donjon Monsters, 13) (French Edition)
David B. (Drawings), Sfar, Joann (Contributor), Trondheim, Lewis (Contributor)
DELCOURT


Alberto Breccia's Dracula (The Alberto Breccia Library)
Breccia, Alberto (Author)
Fantagraphics


Trots and Bonnie
Flenniken, Shary (Author), Hathaway, Norman (Editor), Flake, Emily (Introduction), Hathaway, Norman (Designer)
New York Review Comics


Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise (New York Review Comics)
Panter, Gary (Author), Rudick, Nicole (Afterword), Ruscha, Ed (Foreword)
New York Review Comics


The Fly
Trondheim, Lewis (Author)
Papercutz


Dungeon: Zenith vol. 4: Outside the Ramparts (4)
Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Sfar, Joann (Author), Boulet (Illustrator)
NBM Publishing


Nuft and the Last Dragons, Volume 1: The Great Technowhiz
Milton, Freddy (Author)
Fantagraphics


When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers
Krimstein, Ken (Author)
Bloomsbury Publishing

ART

Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism
Schwitters, Kurt (Author), Luke, Megan R. (Editor), Grundy, Timothy (Translator)
University of Chicago Press


Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne: The Original
Warburg, Aby (Author), Heil, Axel (Contributor), Ohrt, Roberto (Contributor), Scherer, Bernd (Contributor), Sherman, Bill (Contributor), Wedepohl, Claudia (Contributor)
Hatje Cantz